UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of Penn State’s 2020 spring commencement activities, Noelia Ortiz-Landazabal will represent African studies in the College of the Liberal Arts as the program’s student marshal.
In response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, orders from the state government and recommendations from global public health organizations, Penn State will hold its spring 2020 commencement ceremony via livestream on May 9. The virtual ceremony will recognize all Penn State undergraduate students and all graduate students in the Penn State Graduate School.
Ortiz-Landazabal, a Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, will graduate with bachelor of arts degrees in African studies and political science and a minor in women’s studies. Her faculty marshal is Clemente Abrokwaa, associate teaching professor of African studies.
Ortiz-Landazabal said that her liberal arts education has made her more knowledgeable and prepared for the working world.
“My liberal arts degree prepared me to analyze, synthesize and problem-solve in the gray area,” she said. “The world is simply not black and white; it is more gray than anything, and my liberal arts education will continue to benefit me as I navigate problems that don't have a right or wrong answer.”
Ortiz-Landazabal was recognized as a Liberal Arts Change Maker for founding Days for Girls at Penn State, an organization that engages communities to empower and break down barriers for women and girls worldwide through sustainable menstrual care and health education. A main focus of the Penn State branch is sewing reusable menstrual pads that last three to five years. Through their efforts, more girls are able to go to school and more importantly, stay in school. Last summer, Ortiz-Landazabal traveled to Africa with a few other members of the organization to deliver the reusable pads.
When she wasn’t in Africa, Ortiz-Landazabal worked as a legislative and public affairs intern for USAID last summer. She created training for communications directors as well as social media content. In this role, she met with members of regionally focused bureaus to learn about the various projects they were working on.
During her first year at Penn State, Ortiz-Landazabal worked as a UNESCO Undergraduate Research Fellow where she studied the importance of having female leaders when creating female leaders. After her first year at Penn State, Ortiz-Landazabal completed an internship as a data and research coordinator for the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, where she worked to produce a sustainability analysis of think tanks in Africa. Ortiz-Landazabal was a teaching assistant for the three-credit honors course, "Leadership Jumpstart," where students work to determine who they are as leaders and create a final service project. When she was a student in the class, she created a concept called “iConnect” that was a way to put phones down at meals and enjoy face-to-face interaction.
After graduation, Ortiz-Landazabal will join Ernst & Young in Washington, D.C., as a performance improvement analyst.
To first-year Liberal Arts students, Ortiz-Landazabal offered the following advice: “Find your passion and pursue it. There are so many opportunities here already and so many more that are yet to be discovered.”
This is the eighth in a series of stories on the 24 student marshals representing the College of the Liberal Arts during the spring 2020 commencement activities.